I have argued, since Trump’s election, that we must honor the Constution to which we often pay mere lip service and accept the verdict of the 2016 election. We must treat newly inaugurated President Trump with the honor and respect an occupant of that office typically deserves — just for having won it, and for serving in it. More I have noted that Trump, in his successful campaign and in the transition leading up to his accession to the highest office in this land, has made common cause with many of the positions and beliefs conservatives care about. His views are not entirely out of sync with conservative principles. There is much in the Trump agenda conservatives can and should enthusiastically support.
But how we comport ourselves matters, too, and this is especially so for the people we elevate to the presidency. To deserve and command our respect, a president must show respect for the office he or she has been handed, the position he or she occupies by virtue of having won it in a free, open and fair election. But at what point does the self-touting boastfulness or our newly elected president, a self-regard that verges on plain arrogance (that to all intents and purposes is such arrogance) overhwelm the goodwill a president ought to be entitled to by virtue of having won the right to govern from the White House? How long before the kind of grating sense of self-importance characteristic of our new president wears us down as Americans?
Many argue that Trump is a breath of fresh air for having thrown aside the pieties and faux humilities of all of his predecessors, for being the one to tell it like it is and remind the world that he is great just because he is who HE is — and so are those Americans who supported him because of who THEY are. Having nursed a sense of being shunted aside, forgotten in an America being remade in the image of multi-culturalism, many Americans found a resonant message in this man’s self-touting and unabashed braggadocio. But will it, can it, last or do Americans finally grow weary of such boasting and come, in the end, to see the hollowness in the gilt and glitter of Trump’s world? Is his world with his name written everywhere upon it in gold plated lettering, really in harmony with how Americans’ view themselves?
There’s something to be said for concealing one’s more egotistical traits, something Trump seems psychologically incapable of doing. Suppressing one’s most selfish impulses bespeaks an awareness of others around you, a recognition of how you are perceived and a realization that one ought to respect others even if one may not actually feel that particular motivation in one’s gut. Even if one doesn’t feel it at any given moment, there is a reason to do so and acting in a way that can nurture and sustain such feelings in ourselves, acting as if we care, can and often does lead us to actually care about others.
Our behavior is not only feeling-driven — it shapes the feelings we experience, too. That is the real moral force in human beings and it hinges on an argument for acting in ways that can produce and support feelings that reflect concern for other people. Yet Trump, in all his public performances, simply seems incapable of acting in ways that are consistent with such motivations. He shows no awareness, either in his words or his acts, that some types of behavior ought to be affected just because of their salutary benefits for ourselves and those around us.
I really, really want to support his presidency but when I see the nonsense of his press spokesman Sean Spicer calling the press in to complain that the numbers in the crowd at the new president’s inauguration were underreported relative to the numbers reported for his predecessors, I want to run and hide! Our new president, with his overstuffed ego and sense of self importance, and the thinnest of skins to protect that, is an embarrassment. Sure he doesn’t seem to embarrass his diehard supporters or, perhaps, many other Americans who cast their vote for him as a “lesser” evil in a bad field and thus put him over the top in three key “blue wall” states thus ensuring his election. . . not yet, anyway. But how long will Americans remain receptive to a guy whose every thought seems to be about himself?
A new president, in these trying times, ought to be singleminded about one thing: governing this nation to keep us safe and unite us again in the quest for national restoration. But what does Trump’s designated press spokesman worry about? Whether the new president has gotten enough credit in the media for the amount of adulation he received at his inauguration? How long must we expect to be governed by a media-obsessed hound rather than the serious individual we need whose thoughts are directed laser-like to the business of the nation?
If Trump is to succeed in office, he needs to shake off the self-enchantment that has forever been associated with his name and get down to the real stuff he was elected to do. There’s only so long Americans are likely to tolerate the brag over the facts.